By Patrick Omorodion
Football is next to religion as the opium of the masses and its administrators have turned it into a cult of some sort that once they are initiated into it, they hardly want to welcome any uninitiated into their fold not minding if you have ideas to help in the development of the sport.
Not many knew the ‘cultists’ who call themselves administrators were neck deep in corruption, ranging from bribery like the one which rocked the FIFA family recently to match-fixing that is the order of the day everywhere, including our beloved Nigeria.
After Joao Havelange reigned over FIFA for 24 years, he ensured that in 1998, he was succeeded by one of his ‘boys’, Sepp Blatter who also reigned for a long time as Secretary General. All this in an effort to cover-up deals he must have done while in office.
No wonder, years after he left office, scandal upon scandal have been unearthed, forcing the old Brazilian to resign from some post-retirement positions he held back in his country.
Blatter too has been in office since 1998 and when Qatari, Mohamed Bin Hammam tried to contest against him in 2011, he was set up or so it seemed, and the coast was clear for Blatter as the sole candidate for the election of that year.
The situation has not been different in Nigeria. Before now, election into the office of the Nigeria Football Association, NFA was done in such a way that a favoured government nominee had an easy ride to the chairmanship.
However, after a cabal took over, the system changed. Thereafter any aspirant who doesn’t belong to the cabal or cult as it were, was frustrated out however rich his or her credentials were. That is the reason unprepared or half-baked administrators who lack ideas of taking football to the next level always emerged as NFA, now NFF presidents.
It even got to a level that Alhaji Sani Lulu Abdullahi and his team tampered with the eligibility rules of the NFF elections to knock off their perceived rivals. That is why a football personality like Chief Segun Odegbami (MON) and others who have aspired to get into the Board of the NFF have never even qualified from their zones.
Alhaji Lulu didn’t enjoy the benefit of the manipulated Statutes they hurriedly put in place to disqualify those outside their caucus as he was pushed aside after the mess his board put the country through at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Alhaji Aminu Maigari was thrown up and not many football followers are enjoying his reign as NFF president as the Board he presides over lacks ideas of turning around the NFF which still depends on the government to spoon feed it in a year it was supposed to leverage on the Nations Cup success to boost its brand, the Super Eagles.
The football cabal also did it in Ghana where the country’s most revered footballer, Abedi ‘Pele’ Ayew was locked out of contesting for the position of the GFA chairman. Even Roger Milla is not reckoned with in Cameroon. In these countries, including Nigeria, not only ex footballers are denied the opportunity to seek election, anyone not a member of the inner caucus, cannot smell the office.
No wonder, a man like Danny Jordaan, a seasoned football administrator who managed South Africa’s World Cup hosting to the admiration of all, including die hard Europe’s African haters, and Cote d’Ivoire’s Jacques Anouma, were locked out by CAF just to give incumbent and now frail-looking Issa Hayatou an easy ride to remain in power, for another four year term, 25 years after he succeeded Ethiopia’s Ydnekatchew Tessema.
Hayatou also decides who is elected into CAF’s executive committee. Nigeria’s Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima was a victim of the plot when he tried to fill the vacuum left by suspended Dr Amos Adama. Even one of their apostles, incumbent NFF president, Maigari suffered the same fate. No reason was however, adduced why he failed or why his fall was reportedly plotted by the cabal.
And just recently in Sierra Leone, the country’s football legend, Mohammed Kallon who used his personal funds to support the national team, Leone Stars and two others, Rodney Michael and Foday Turay, were disqualified to clear the way for the sole candidate, ostensibly the favoured candidate of the cabal in Sierra Leone, Isha Johansen.
Like Chief Odegbami, Kallon has cried foul and told the BBC this. “I have given over 19 years of my life playing for Sierra Leone, spent a lot of cash on Kallon FC and helped to develop kids – more than 15 boys now have a professional football career abroad – and produced 80% of the players now playing for Leone Stars, this is how they are paying me back.”
Like Kallon, Odegbami runs a football school, he is also the brain behind the All Nigeria Secondary Schools Football Championships tagged NNPC/Shell Cup for the discovery of young football talents, yet those whose interest in football does not go beyond the estacode and allowances they accumulate traveling with the various national teams all over the world have gathered themselves to hold the game to ransom.
Kallon may have given up if these words are anyting to go by. “I now know I’m not appreciated and wanted in Sierra Leone by the government as a whole. In this regard my team Kallon FC are dead. I don’t want anything to do with Sierra Leone football again.”
Chief Odegbami does not want to give up. He continues to play his role of helping discover young talents, believing one day he could have the chance to help chart a noteworthy course for Nigeria’s football and end the strangle hold the cabal have over Nigeria’s football.